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16x20 Camera+lens?


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I was wondering if anyone has ever seen/used something this large, or if they have attempted to make



I am starting to do some research on making a 16x20 maybe including making the lens too if I can't

find a cheap way of producing one some other way. Does anyone have any pointers or advice where to

start my advennture?


I have the "Primitive Photography" book and have looked through that. It seems like the old singlet and

doublet lenes aren't too hard to make if you can find the glass. Anyone have any experience with

making lenses?


Lastly, if building the lens ends up being too difficult does anyone know of a lens that has the coverage,

or can be modified to get that sort of coverage? I think a normal length is 650mm, right?



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Look into a process lens. What you use for a shutter, I don't know. But get familiar with the printing process surplus people and I think you'll be on track. Have you figured out how to load the film? Another thought: I think Polaroid had a 20x24"? camera. Do a search for it and see what lens it uses.
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There are plenty of lenses in the Graphic Arts world that easily cover 16x20. One of the

most popular names would be the Red Dot Artar in appropriate focal length, but there are

plenty more. These are all barrel mount lenses that would need to be used with a front-

mount or behind the lens mount shutter such as a Packard type shutter. No sense in

trying to reinvent the wheel, when there are plenty of suitable lenses out there, and in fact

there are several wood field camera makers that have, and will make for you a 16x20


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Nikon made some wide angle process lenses such as the 260mm which ought to cover that format, and I believe the longer Fuji (600mm) and Schneider offerings (550mm & 1100mm) will also do so. Only the latter two brands are available still made as well as available in shutter, but the Dagors ought to be available as well in shutter.
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I worked with a 16x20 for several years. The 480 Schneider (or the 360 Schneider--360 Rodenstock does not cover it) is my first choice for this format. But yes, there are a lot of old barrel lenses which will cover. You might also consider pinhole. Great format. I had to give it up because of a bad back.
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I'd be extremely careful with recommending a Schneider Apo Symmar 480mm. The image circle for both the current 480 L and the older plain 480 Apo Symmar is given by Schneider as 500mm at f22. I owned a 480 Apo Symmar for a while (note, not the Apo Symmar L; the older model). It didn't cover 12x20 let alone 16x20 because of mechanical vignetting - didn't matter how far down you stopped it. I'd be extremely surprized based on the similarity in specs between the two lenses if the newer model had greater coverage. First hand - the 480 Apo Symmar does not come close to covering 16x20... And I don't sell lenses for a living either.
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I built a 16x20 wet plate camera around a $25 e-bay bellows from a process camera. I

came up with the design by looking at MANY 19th and 20th Century camera designs

online, and picking and choosing elements that both worked and that I could fabricate

based on my skills and limited materials. I've bought 2 old rapid rectilinear lenses on e-

bay for under $250 which cover and work well with this process...<div>00L1Lm-36356684.jpg.730a83412937ffeed3b4f95574c59f03.jpg</div>

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey, thanks. This gives me some things to chew on. Looks like there are good lenes to be

had out there for a reasonable price and making the camera seems doable, so its just a

matter of working out some details and tracking down some of those process pieces I will



I think this will be my summer project. Thanks again.

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  • 5 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Picked up an Old Tessar lens 760mm that should cover anything. No shutter yet.


Figured out a focusing mechanism. Lead screw and nut which I [icked up cheap.


Working on the plans still, and deciding what sorts of movements I will want. Almost there

with design for film holder. Front standard is giving me some trouble, though. Choice of

materials is going to be very important with the huge glass on the front.


And most importantly, I have access to a wood and metal shop that I will be able to use

until May which should give me enough time to put this together. I figure a month or two

will just be used to refine my precision milling ability and prototyping some of the parts.

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  • 3 months later...

I set up a blog now that I am really moving on this. Making progress, and have a working

design. The film holders have really been the most challenging thing to figure out. I

started with them to really fine tune my wood working skill and so I have a shape and size

to build the camera around.


Hoping to share all my thoughts on design and building on the blog. Feel free to look and

respond to things I am doing.



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